“The Limits of Ordinary Experience”: A Phenomenological Reading of “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

  • R. Kenneth Kirby
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 109)


The author identifies the fundamental interpretive problem in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” as being associated with the desire of Baglioni and Giovanni to bring Beatrice back within “the limits of ordinary experience.” Based on Hawthorne’s most prevalent themes, this desire seems to be both right and wrong, and the story seems disunified. A phenomenological perspective on this problem examines how Hawthorne views ordinary human experience, and demonstrates that despite the harm Rappaccini has done to Beatrice by isolating her, her poisonous condition represents Hawthorne’s view of fallen but mature human nature, corresponding in some way to having experienced an epochè that Baglioni and Giovanni never achieve. The limits of ordinary experience can be seen as analogous to Husserl’s natural attitude of unreflective daily life, never fully examining what Gerhard Funke calls “the subjective origins of all objectivities.” Hawthorne advocates passing beyond this unreflective attitude, which never fully recognizes that mature human nature is a mixture of good and evil that accepts this good and evil in self and others.


Natural Attitude Transcendental Phenomenology Ordinary Experience Ordinary Nature Interpretive Problem 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Samford UniversityBirminghamUSA

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